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Small town's experiment could pay off in big cities

Monday - 1/16/2012, 10:48am  ET

culpeper512.jpg
The LED-powered street lights in Culpeper, Va. are brighter, cheaper to operate and last longer town officials say. (Courtesy Town of Culpeper)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASINGTON - After becoming the first local community to switch all of its traffic signals to LED bulbs, Culpeper, Va. is now eyeing its street lights.

Culpeper, a town of about 16,000 people, recently converted two overhead street lights at North Main and Piedmont streets.

LEDs, or light-emitting diode bulbs, are brighter and cheaper to operate, as well as last longer. LEDs are estimated to shine for up to 100,000 hours compared to standard bulbs, which last about 24,000 hours.

"It saves about 50 percent of the energy of a standard sodium pressure bulb," says town spokesman Wally Bunker. "It's also brighter and it leaves a very white footprint and allows you to illuminate more at less cost."

Bunker says the LED bulbs are more than double the cost to buy, about $400 to $600 each compared to $250 for the standard bulb.

But he says they will pay off in the long run. He says traffic signals already using the LED bulbs are able to use less expensive battery backups during a power outage.

The town will be putting up another test site at Elm and South Main streets in the near future and is going to seek public comment on the efficiency of the street lights.

There's no estimate on what it would cost to put these lights throughout the entire town.

To provide comment on the new lights being tested, residents can call Light and Power at 540-825-8165.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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